Friday, November 30, 2012

Captain Beefheart – Translucent Fresnel

   Captain Beefheart is one of greatest personalities in psychedelic and early progressive rock movement. His best years in late sixties and early seventies passed under the sign of the series of great progressive recordings with Trout Mask Replica. He was also famous as stage personality and his European concert tours were legendary. In this very moment shows John Peel, a famous BBC Radio 1 disc jockey. He was a private collector of live recordings of public concerts of his favorite artists. He did a lot for Beefheart’s public recognition as well as for many other musicians. From his tapes and bail was made bootleg album of Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band Translucent Fresnel. The title of this bootleg is a reference to the Clear Spot album. Fresnel lantern producing soft-edge, translucent beam of light is a good metaphor for the content of double LP 180 gram black vinyl pressing which is subtittled as volume one of The Nan True’s Hole Tapes. The double LP album was published in gatefold sleeve and translucent plastic jacket by Dandelion Records and Ozit Records in 2011. It was released about a month after that as Captain Beefheart died. 
   Whole program is composed of materials recorded during different shows in Manchester April 1st, 1972, Leicester University May 1st, 1973 and Stevenage Locarno May 22nd, 1973. And the lineup is a stable The Magic Band with Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet) singing and playing harmonica. The core of the band was pretty much the same as in Clear Spot studio recordings Zoot Horn Rollo (Bill Harkleroad) playing guitar and slide guitar, Rockette Morton (Mark Boston) on bass guitar and guitar and Ed Marimba (Art Tripp) playing drums and percussion instruments. There were also two old Beefheart friends and members of The Magic Band, playing a slide guitar Alex St Clair (Alex Snouffer) – in fact he was the one who founded The Magic Band in 1965 – and Orejon (Roy Estrada) playing bass guitar.

Captain Beefheart – Translucent Fresnel (2011)

   Poor technical quality of this material is a fact but it has nothing to do with musical and documentarian value of this edition. Recordings include mainly musical material of Clear Spot promotional tour, but also some songs from earlier albums Safe as Milk (Electricity), Trout Mask Replica (Sugar’n’Spikes), Lick My Decals Off, Baby (Peon), Mirror Man (Mirrorman) and The Spotlight Kid (great trance version of I'm Gonna Booglarize You Baby). There is also one instrumental piece published later in 1978 on Shiny Beast (Suction Prints). These songs, so well known from studio recordings are quite different when played during public performances. And there’s a big gap between Beefheart’s studio recordings and live gigs. While in studio musicians were precise like Swiss watch mechanism, what they did on stage was closer to happenings than typical concert event. 
   Does it mean they weren’t playing with precision? Of course not! They rather did it more jazzy way, with extra power and expressive means. This special attitude was mutual characteristic for many bands in late 60’s and early 70’s with the closest Beefheart’s friend Frank Zappa and his Mothers of Invention. Beefheart was always more radical even if he endeavor to the commercial success. Raw blues with some surrealistic sense of humor, expanded jamming with harmonica riffs make these recordings closer to trance. Some more orderly played songs Good example is opening Side Three fragment of Leicaster University show – first the song Low Yo Yo Stuff and then following jam in Mirrorman and Peon 2. Captain is howling, growling and improvising at the end of Mirrorman and this is completely magic moment with The Magic Band.

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